Southern California environment news and trends

Will the Chester Williams building continue to house migrating swifts?

Mercer 10599

Julio Morales/KPCC

A column of Vaux's Swifts descend into a chimney at the Chester Williams building located at 5th Street and Broadway in downtown Los Angeles, Sept. 22, 2010.

A downtown Los Angeles chimney favored by small migrating birds might not serve as their stopover spot for much longer. 

The small birds are Vaux’s swifts. They eat thousands of bugs a day as they move from the northern part of the United States to Central and South America. For the last several years, thousands of them have crowded into the chimney of the Chester Williams building in downtown LA. But this year people live in the building, which means the owners are doing more to keep it dry inside. 

Last week, the owners of the Williams Building put a rain guard atop the chimney, and that stymied some swifts from roosting there. Some bird lovers got upset and asked Councilman Jose Huizar to do something. In the meantime, owners took the rain guard down, reasoning that rain isn’t in the forecast anyway. 

The Audubon Center at Debs Park has been leading urban birdwatching trips to the spot for the last several years. The center’s Jeff Chapman says he’s hopeful homes can be kept dry and birds can still catch some Z’s in the chimney. 

Swifts descended on LA in great numbers some weeks ago. It's the end of the season; any swifts that were displaced were likely in the minority, since the greatest observed numbers came down the chimney some weeks earlier. So this is very likely a problem that the building's owners, Councilman Huizar's office, and possibly the Audobon folks could solve during the winter while the birds have got their toes in the sand and are sipping margaritas. 

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